Animation/Rigging Puzzle - Trying to animate "growing effect" on branch with leaves

I am trying to achieve a growing branch effect, which seems like it would be really simple. However I am running into issues when it comes to the leaves and I’m not sure where to start.

Example result mesh:

What I need: I need the branch to either be a curve or be shaped by a curve, and I need the leaves to be attached to the curve object so that I can edit the curve and the branch updates dynamically. This in and of itself is rather difficult, but I also need to be able to animate in a growing effect on the branch that drives the leaf size.

I am open to any method that accomplishes this. Currently I have a curve that uses a Bevel object to decide the thickness. This makes it easy to make a “growing” animation. However, I am trying to find a way to grow the leaves as well based on the same factor. Again, it can be an entirely different approach, I just need to be able to animate in the leaf meshes and have them follow the branch spline dynamically.

Current Branch Animation (GIF):

I’d highly recommend checking out Animation Nodes, its basically made for this kind of thing - its a little complex to start but do a few tutorials and it will make sense.

Make sure you only look at AN 2.0 tutorials though as things changed quite a bit with the v2 release.

Current progress following a traditional route is working but complex. Will look into Animation Nodes for future projects.

Anyways, these branches are all driven by a spline and animated via empties. The leaves are what makes it complex. Tons of drivers and a lot of parenting to vertices of shapes that follow the parent curve.

A quick look at the rig:


how about having each leaves deformed by the spline (Curve Deform)
Then you set a driver on the scale based on the distance from the leave and an empty.

The leaves positions will all be aligned on an axis.

You can then figure out how to link the empty animation with the branch growth.

I’m not sure if it’s clear explained this way.